Jordan Hildebrandt & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Perpetual Motion”—Jim P’s review
Theme: RENEWABLE ENERGY is the central revealer at 36a [Continuous power, found in continuous strings in rows 1, 5, 11 and 15]. Pairs of words in those rows hide types of RENEWABLE ENERGY spanning a block.
- Row 1: SPLASHY / DROPS IN. Hydro.
- Row 5: “THINK SO?” / LARCENY. Solar.
- Row 11: CAN’T-WIN / DOG BOWL. Wind.
- Row 15: SET MENU / CLEAR UP. Nuclear.
Conceptually, I’m struggling to make sense of this one. First, I wouldn’t equate the terms RENEWABLE ENERGY and “continuous power.” Second, how is “continuous” represented by having the words broken up by blocks? To me, it looks the opposite of continuous (i.e. interrupted). And the title seems nonsensical.
The fill is hit and miss. JET STREAM and PINE CONES are great, as is OAT BRAN, POTHEAD, and BY A NOSE. And then there’s TOURER, OMARR, REPAD(?!) and new-to-me CASCADA and Freddy ADU.
Clues of note:
- 19a. [Macabre Van Gogh gift]. EAR. Wait, what? He gifted it to someone? I don’t think I heard that part of the tale. Ah, here’s some of the story.
- 31a. [Red Heart and Fire are among the most used]. EMOJI. The lists I just looked at say Face with Tears of Joy is the most used EMOJI. ?
- 50a. [Pedigree holder, perhaps]. DOG BOWL. Pedigree, the dog food. My fave clue of the grid.
- 53a. [“Crystal Castles” producer]. ATARI. That’s a deep cut. I don’t think I ever played that one, but the name does ring a bell.
- 58a. [Major option for med students]. BIOCHEM. My doctor wife majored in Biology (which fits), so that’s what I went with for the longest time.
- 63a. [German trio asking you to “Evacuate the Dancefloor”]. CASCADA. Needed every single crossing since I’ve never heard of this group, although I’m well out of the demographic. But even when I was that age, I was never one for the club scene. How many solvers knew this one? Here’s the video if you’re so inclined.
- 61d. [Do some plotting]. Not scheming or writing, but MAPping out a course.
I’m still struggling with the theme which feels like it’s stretching some definitions too far. Three stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Take a Crack At It” – Jenni’s write-up
Definitely not blazingly hard or even hard-boiled. Each theme entry ends with a word that describes something that can be done to an EGG. I figured that out halfway through with help from the title. Peter made sure we got it by putting EGG as the revealer at 63d.
- 17a [1989 comedy with the tagline “Revenge is sweet….and low”] is SHE–DEVIL.
- 21a [Pamper] is MOLLYCODDLE.
- 38a [Encounters trouble, informally] is GETS INTO A PICKLE.
- 48a [Disordered rush] is a MAD SCRAMBLE.
- 61a [Speech characteristic of a Kim Kardashian impersonator] is VOCAL FRY.
So that’s it. It’s a solid, consistent, accessible theme. I didn’t find it challenging or all that much fun. I am sure opinions vary!
A few other things:
- I’d be a little weirded out if someone in the neighborhood was using a SCYTHE to cut their grass.
- To me, “clodhoppers” are shoes, specifically the kind of clunky thick-heeled and thick-soled shoes my father despised. When I was 14 I had a pair of patent leather shoes that were red, white, and yellow, with thick heels and bumpy toes. I loved them. My father hated them so much he was still complaining about them 40 years later. Anyway, I was not familiar with the use of the term to mean YOKEL and a bit of searching suggests I needed to be educated.
- I eat CHOBANI yogurt for lunch almost every day. Usually coffee, occasionally vanilla, and sometimes I go really wild and crazy and have something with fruit.
- The word APSE always reminds me of this. (2:48)
- Took me a little while to figure out why there was nothing ocular for [Vitreous] at 67a. That’s because the answer is GLASSY which would be less embarrassing if I wasn’t going downstairs to do some flameworking before bed.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that CAP‘N Crunch has a first and middle name: Horatio Magellan.
John Lampkin’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It took me a solid minute of staring at various grid quadrants to figure out what was going on with this Thursday’s NYT. It was something rebus-y, but not in a consistent way across vs down:
- 17A: Fashionable — A L[A M]ODE
- 3D: Not amplified, in a way — OF[F M]IKE
- 21A: Coffee liqueur originally from Jamaica — TI[A M]ARIA
- 10D: Rich, but not born that way — SEL[F M]ADE
- 56A: 2001 Broadway hit with an exclamation mark in its name — MAMM[A M]IA!
- 43D: Certain flag position — HAL[F M]AST
- 62A: Something to meditate on — YOG[A M]AT
- 49D: Figure in a horror film — WOL[FM]AN
Once you have all the squares put together, though, it’s really clear that it’s AM one way and FM another, bolstered by the revealer “It can be two-way … with a hint to four squares in this puzzle” resolving to RADIO. All in all, it’s cute and had plenty to chew on.
Other grid bits of interest: Jules LEOTARD, a TEABAG “always getting into hot water”, IN A PANIC, BEACON, OLD SALT, OVERLORD, HOT PANTS, and OUTACT
Lewis Rothlein and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Action Figures”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Words reimagined as if they are titles for certain jobs.
- 17A [Tenderizer?] BANK TELLER.
- 27A [Organizer?] CHURCH MUSICIAN.
- 42A [Digitizer?] NAIL TECHNICIAN.
- 57A [Itemizer?] MATCH MAKER.
Solid, consistent puzzle with a clever idea. I like how the clues all change meaning completely and that they are all the same number of syllables with the same suffix. Gives it a rather poetic feel. The title makes me picture all of them as G.I. Joe-esque figures, which is a hilarious visual, especially for church organizer (organ-izer). I just picture a kindly old lady absolutely shredding on Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring in the style of Mannheim Steamroller. Then perhaps smashing it with a sledgehammer at the finale.
Anyways, other things:
- 41A [Actress Fawcett whose name is alliterative] Usually those nudges in the second half of the clue are reserved for names that are potentially new to many solvers. Am I of the age now (41 yesterday) where FARRAH Fawcett is no longer a common-knowledge name?
- 60A [Flour for naan and chapati] ATTA. Second time I’m seeing it clued like this. Couldn’t get it off the tip of the tongue. I’ll get it next time! Way better than [Lead in to girl].
I think that’s about it. Nice longer fill answers included FAKE PUNT, HAND–IN–HAND, HIGH SIERRA, and IRISH ALE.
Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today crossword, “Plus Interest”— Sophia’s write-up
Theme: The last word of each theme answer forms a common phrase when followed by the word “interest”.
- 16A: [Substance containing carbon molecules] – ORGANIC COMPOUND // Compound interest
- 31A: [“Mistakes happen!”] – IM ONLY HUMAN // Human interest
- 38A: [1980s Soft Cell hit] – TAINTED LOVE // Love interest
- 54A: [“Well, whoop-de-doo!”] – ISNT THAT SPECIAL // Special interest
Fun, simple theme today from Wendy – I always like in “words followed by X” themes when X is a longer word that is used in different ways in each of the resulting phrases like it is here. It took me a while to parse “love interest” as a phrase, because I was still thinking about the monetary form of interest, so I had a mini aha-moment once I actually got it. The last three theme answers in particular shine in their own right – they’re all answers I would be happy to see in a themeless puzzle, which is a true sign of sparkle.
The grid felt very smooth today, and each section flowed well. This is probably due to the lack of 3-letter answers – there are only 9 in the entire grid! The wealth of mid-length answers kept the grid from feeling choppy, and kept me from having to stop and start in a bunch of different areas. As a trade off, there aren’t too many long bonuses, but the ones that we do get – ECLIPSE, BRIBERY, RANDOMLY PINES FOR (more fun to combine those two) – are all lovely.
- The only reason I know Frantz FANON is from a lyric in “It’s Gonna Be OK, Baby” by MUNA. Crossword knowledge can come from anywhere!
- The Grillenium Falcon was a gourmet grilled cheese food truck that served all sorts of PUNNY sandwiches like “Jack to the Future” and “East of Edam”. Tragically it appears to no longer be running.
- Besides the food truck, with mentions of pretzel KNOTs, STEW, OLIVE, TOMATO, SLAW, SNO-caps, and Bun bo Hue, this was a very food focused puzzle. Or maybe I’m just very food focused. Either way, I appreciated it
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s “Think Fast #1381” —Darby’s review
Hey, y’all, I’m Darby. I’m pumped to be joining Team Fiend. It’s been such a resource to me and has given me a lot of insights into different puzzles and constructing styles. I hope you’ll enjoy my love for puns in puzzles and the occasional nerdy reference.
Kicking it off with Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Thursday “Think Fast,” 37A HOLLYWOODSTUDIO spanned the center of the grid as a clever answer to “Place where many people get shot.” If the target was a laugh, this was a direct hit.
Some other fun clues:
23a — I love to READ [“Start a new chapter”] but struggled here at first. I should’ve taken it literally (or perhaps I should be READing more?)
34a — A less well-known Princess LEIA [“Princess who says ‘I knew there was more to you than money”] quote from Star Wars made my morning. It was definitely a little different from the usual “You’re a little short for a stormtrooper” or play on the “I love you”/”I know” clues that even I, a lifelong fan, paused before filling it in.
68a — ZOOMROOMS [“Modern day conference centers, or a jokey way to describe 1-Across and 37-Across”] felt very appropriate in this brave new world of remote learning and virtual experiences, so it provided a pleasant final across clue for this puzzle.
Overall, this one was tough for me. The lower right corner had a tough combo of names with 65a NEALE [“Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees coauthor ____ Godfrey”] and 67a ERDOS [“Hungarian mathematician Paul” ]. 37d HAIRLINE [“One that gets wiped out during a recession”], 38d OLDTIMER [“Fogy”], and 57d PALO [“___ Alto”] helped a bit in getting these, but I don’t think it saved the solvers.
Overall, still a solid start to my day, and it’s definitely made me excited to spend more time with BEQ puzzles. Too many names made for a difficult fill, but I appreciated the word play in clues like 37d HAIRLINE and some of the others I’ve mentioned above.
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Another fairly uncomplicated theme, this time from Mark McClain, but a more interesting execution for me. The revealer is in the bottom left corner: FORESEES; interpreted as “four c’s”. Four long across answers have that letter configuration: CIRCUSCATCH, a new phrase on me, but evocative; COPTICCHURCH clued rather incongruously as a specific one not the entire body; ARCTICICECAP; and CUCKOOCLOCK.
Also, a much more controlled grid than yesterday, provided one buys EFILERS (that reminds me, July is tax month here…) But not much that jumps out at me as daring or unusual: SMUSH is just a fun word to say.